Practice What You Reach

November 5, 2012

//Editor's Note: Watch Carolyn premiere her video live at the Citizens Awards on December 6.//

We are what we practice. When we endeavor to greatness, the daily practice of innovation, perseverance, and collaboration is key. Playing college sports teaches you this. My basketball coach at Shepherd University was fond of a certain euphemism. Much to my chagrin, the phrase almost always preceded rounds of drills and sprints. “Offense wins games. Defense wins championships,” she would say. I disagreed with the sentiment, then. I still do. Individuals win games. Teams win championships.

For more than 115 million children in developing countries, getting an education is not a game. John Medo wants to be President of Tanzania. He comes from one of the poorest families in his community—his family of seven lives off of $45 a month. His school fees are $150 a year. The School Fund keeps John and hundreds of children like him around the world in school.

The organization, initially conceived as a Clinton Global Initiative University commitment, believes education is the most effective way for individuals to improve their own lives. Each year, school fees present an insurmountable barrier to students who hope to continue their education. The School Fund’s transparent, person-to-person internet platform links these students directly with funders thereby changing the way education development funding is both given and received.

My music inspires people to support their beautiful dreams with good information and solid effort. This is my passion, and I work at it daily. I am an independent artist. This means that I am not signed to a major record label, let alone an indie label. I have a growing team of fans, producers, managers, and musicians: my Tribe. We are partners in success.

Receiving a Grammy award nomination in 2011 ignited us all. We saw dramatic increases in website and social network traffic. Demand for my content (music and video) grew in new, exciting markets. While a curious world was watching, I was wondering. Could I add value to my content by offering an invaluable service to my global community?

We teamed up with a single mission in mind, to use music as a means of educating students in developing countries.

I needed an equally passionate and innovative partner. THE SCHOOL FUND... I heard the name while on a call with the Carmelita Group, an agency for social good, and a key player on my team. Their passion was evident. We teamed up with a single mission in mind, to use music as a means of educating students in developing countries. On March 8, 2012, we gathered in New York at the BCLC and United Nations Office for Partnership’s International Women’s Day conference, The Role of Business in Empowering Women. The experience fueled our curiosity and refined our approach.

At the time, I was writing a high-energy song called “Free Your Mind.” The refrain states, “Wherever you are, your mind put you there,” which is to say, how a person shows up in the world greatly depends on how they visualize themselves within it. We agreed this was an important message for The School Fund’s students and for my Tribe.

Just like that, the #IAM Campaign was born, and I got the partner of my dreams.

You can change the world with a strong partner.

You can change the world with a strong partner, and you may first notice the changes within your core team. The “Free Your Mind” song and video came to life this summer in Washington, DC. Music producers Marcus Marshall and Silvio Delis put their hearts into the song. The same goes for the Taratibu Youth Association and SunChase Media. Both groups worked diligently to execute the music video. We filmed over the course of three weeks, five, four-hour sessions, and several locations.

Earlier this month, The School Fund and I took the “Free Your Mind” song and the message of the #IAM Campaign to Silicon Valley. Audiences at Google, Chegg, and even the School Fund’s birthday party rejoiced when Matt Severson, President, shared the news. They danced when I performed the song. This partnership makes it easy for people to change the world while getting something they love, good music.

On December 6, the music video will make its debut at the BCLC Citizens Awards. What makes this video so special is that, for every view it receives, one hour of class time will be donated to students in East Africa, courtesy of The School Fund’s corporate sponsors. Our goal is to provide 10,000 class hours per month for six months. I am invigorated by the possibilities.

The BCLC Citizens Awards’ Best Partnership category recognizes 10 champions of change, five teams in pursuit of the possibilities. This is a people’s choice award. Last year, nearly 45,000 people voted to select W.W. Grainger Inc. and the American Red Cross as the Best Partnership. Click here to review this year's finalists. Root for your favorite team and tell us what you think of their stories.

Interested in joining the #IAM Campaign? Send an email to share your interest.